What is Halong Bay?
Halong bay is Vietnams most iconic tourist attraction. The name “Halong” translates to descending dragon. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts creating a visual display that is absolutely unique in the world. Historical research indicates that there were prehistoric human beings that inhabitated Halong some tens of thousands of years ago making it one of Vietnam’s most significant cultural locations as well.
The bay consists of 1969 limestone islands and the total area is roughly 334 square kilometers. Of all of the islands in Halong bay roughly 40 of them are inhabited. The population of Ha Long bay is roughly 1,540 people. Most of the locals living here live on boats and rafts buoyed by tires and plastic so they can fish and breed marine life. Today floating villagers offer rooms for rent for tourist as well as boat tours and fresh seafood.
The Rock Wonder in the Sky
500 years ago Nguyen Trai praised the beauty of Ha Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it “rock wonder in the sky”. In 1994 Ha Long Bay was listed as an official world heritage site. Some of the islands are hallow creating stunning caves that you can venture into. 500 millions years of downpour have also worn down the limestone carsts creating beautiful textures and colors on the karsts.
Enviornmental Impacts due to Tourism
Halong Bay is recorded to receive roughly 30,000 tourist per day and roughly 5 million tourist per year. This has of course produced a huge amount of polution in the bay which is threatining this fragile natural habitat. The large cruise vessels that operate here every day of course lead to oil and noise pollution. Mangroves and seagrass beds for example have been completely cleared as a result of the tourisn industry. Thankfully a taskforce has been set up to begin an attempt to combat the water pollution issues.
Ha Long Bay Tour Options
The most popular way to experience Ha Long bay is to go on a 2 day cruise departing from Hanoi. This is the perfect amount of time to experience the bay, not too rushed and not too prolonged. For those with limited time you can book a day tour to the bay. Take note that transfer from Hanoi takes around 4 hours so you will spend half of the day in a bus. The three day tour is definitely pushing it a bit too much unless you book a luxurious cruise that makes staying an extra day a bit more tempting.
When to Visit Ha Long Bay?
It gets chilly in northern Vietnam in December to February. Otherwise the weather is fairly tropical most of the year. The recommended time to visit Halong Bay is in spring from February to April to avoid the cool air and too much heat. The temperature around this time is 19-24 degrees and you avoid the monsoon rain.